Lebara Mobile won an award in the 2017 WhatPhone Awards
Best for international calls – Lebara Mobile
Lebara won the WhatPhone award for best International Plan.
Lebara’s award for internWhat are Lebara’s international rates like ?ational minutes might be the least surprising of the plans and trophies we awarded in 2017. Here we review their new plan range which was revised in late 2017. Fundamentally, the new plan range raised data inclusions at every price point and continued Lebara’s focus on International as thething which makes them different to the compeition.
They have the basics covered: Lebara offer some of the strongest data inclusions at $30 – they have a5GB bundle for that price. They use the Vodafone 3G and 4G network which is now on a par with Optus and Telstra’s. Increasingly unusual, in prepaid plans these days Lebara also take it to the competition with a 30 day, rather than 28 day expiry.
And, most importantly from the perspective of the 2017 awards, Lebara’s International calls inclusions start at 1000 minutes for just $29.90 (Mini Mega Plan). That’s a clear $10 below the price point you’ll find most of the competition at. For just $29.90 a month, you’ll get unlimited international calls to the dozen most commonly called places in the world.
What do you need to know about Lebara ?
Lebara are known for their value when it comes to unlimited plans and international calls.
Lebara are one of a few smaller Australian phone companies which use the Vodafone Australia network. Smaller phone companies are sometimes called MVNOs and we’ve written about them a lot. Although they’re small, relative to the main phone companies like Optus, Telstra and Vodafone, Lebara are a well known brand in Australia. You’ve probably seen them every time you’ve bought petrol or the paper for the last few years.
The company, now based in North Sydney, NSW, are almost certainly bigger than you think. Lebara operate the better part of a dozen phone companies in various, mostly European, countries around the world. They employ a total of about 1500 people ( that’s worldwide, not just in Australia. ) Lebara are known for their value when it comes to unlimited plans and plans which include international calls. They are a prepaid SIM provider. If you’re not sure what prepaid means or how it compares to other types of SIM Only Plan ? Read our article on how to compare prepaid plans vs month to month vs on account. In Australia, Lebara have been operating for nearly 10 years, so they’re not going to run off in the middle of the night with your recharge money.
Lebara’s 2017 plan refresh acknowledged the importance of data to their customer base (by offering more at each price point) and maintains their leadership in international calls. They’re also a fair company – fairer than most telcos – as you’ll see from what’s below.
Here’s a bit more background in case you need it before you buy
How Lebara’s prepaid plans work.
Lebara’s / Vodafone’s network coverage has improved a lot recently
We’ve written extensively about Vodafone’s network improvements over the last 5 years. Vodafone coverage has improved dramatically, particularly in Australia’s capital cities. The short version of all the research and our longer articles is that Vodafone’s 3G network is very good in Australia’s main cities. If that’s where you live, we recommend that you seriously consider Lebara.
Vodafone have made herculean efforts to improve the quality of their 3G and 4G networks as we have tried to make clear on our coverage page. The result is impressive. In mid 2016, Vodafone made two, linked announcements about their network. First, Vodafone have offered 4G data speeds to their network resellers, including Lebara’s Plans. Second, following years of planning and hundreds of millions of dollars spent, Vodafone’s 4G network is on a par with Telstra’s for coverage in Australia. You’ll get a 4G signal with Vodafone the same amount of time you will get a 4G signal from Telstra. Vodafone actually have more customers in Sydney than Telstra and their network has been measured quicker in NSW than any competitor.
As well as providing access to the Vodafone network at rates better than Vodafone themselves offer, Lebara have an additional string to their bow. Lebara have negotiated substantial discounts on calls to other countries, from your Australian mobile. These are international rates you won’t even get with Vodafone themselves. For now, Lebara are reselling a quality 4G network – up with the best in Australia. And yet their data inclusions are enormous when compared to the competition from the mother companies – Vodafone and Telstra.What is 4G ?
Lebara use the Vodafone 4G network. But what does that mean ?
Lebara now offer 4G data speeds. The fastest available.
What are Lebara’s international rates like ?
Lebara’s international rates are very good. Obviously, information about the countries you can call changes all the time so you’re best checking Lebara’s website for details of international pricing. However, as an example, if you take the $29.90 National Plan you’ll get unlimited calls to the UK, USA, China, South Kora, Israel, Venezuela, Denmark and so on an so on.
Lebara won the best of the best Money award for their international plans so…. There’s kind of not a lot more to say about the rates and how they compare to the competition.
What’s good about Lebara’s plans ?
Lebara use a great metro focused network and offer the most affordable unlimited plans with a data allowance in Australia. They also have the best international rates we know. But these are not the only reasons we recommend them :
- Lebara’s Plans are from a low cost Prepaid SIM Only provider:
The vast majority of the Australian market is now SIM Only focused. Hand me down phones, refurbished phones and eBay bargains mean more people every day are looking for a SIM which gives them pricing which is as good for their plan as it was for their handset. Among the low cost SIM Only providers in Australia, Lebara are unique for their international inclusions.
- Fast Data:
4G is fast data – fast enough to let you watch a You Tube clip without stalling or interruption. 4G is superfast data – probably faster than your home broadband connection. The speeds Lebara give you are, from the middle of 2016, full 4G. Remember, if you have a 3G phone, you will not be disadvantages. Your Lebara SIM will work just fine. You will not, of course, be able to get 4G speeds on a 3G phone, however. To get Lebara’s 4G speeds, you’ll need to be in a coverage area and using a 4G phone.
- Australia’s most affordable all you can eat plans:
Lebara offer an unlimited plan for $29.90 which includes 5GB of 4G data. This inclusion compares favourably against the competition (you might also want to check out Kogan Mobile’s plans – they also use the Vodafone network.
- Prepaid Plans:
Prepaid plans offer totally predictability when it comes to cost. The very most you will spend before your next bill is the amount you recharged this time. Predictability of spend is one reason prepaid plans are so appealing. So long as you only recharge by your recharge requirement each month, it’s impossible to overspend. Prepaid plans also mean you do not have to sign a contract. You are free to move to a new provider whenever you’d like. If another phone company runs a promotion you’d like, you can move to it straight away.
- Flexible Plans :
You can recharge your Lebara SIM with any of their plans simply by visiting their online self service area or texting a code to them from your phone. If you’re not sure whether Lebara have coverage in your area, we recommend using their coverage checker.
- Easy recharge :
Recharging is a key component of any prepaid plans and, luckily, Lebara make it easy. They offer the following facilities.
- Credit card recharge:
Online, IVR (by calling 126 123), CRM by calling customer care (126 122)
- Physical scratch voucher or e-voucher:
Online, IVR, CRM, SMS (by sending pin number to 126 172) and mobile app
- Moving Plans:
Lebara allow customers to opt in to plans using their main balance. For instance, a customer with $40 main balance can send MEGA to 126172 and a $39.90 mega plan will be applied (they will have $0.10 main balance remaining)
- 1kB Data Rounding :
Some providers offer per kB charging for their data plans. Some operators charge (and round up) per MB. It is preferable from a customer’s perspective when they do charge per kB. Struggling to understand what it means ? Whether it’s Kb or MB charging, your data session will be rounded up at the end of the surfing or downloading you’re doing. Imagine your data allowance was $2000 instead of 2GB. The best analogy is if the shop you buy your groceries with that $2000, always rounds up to the nearest dollar ( MB charging ). It’s fine if you’ve spent 99 cents. But if you’ve only spent 50 cents and they round it up to a dollar, it starts to add up. By the end of the month, you’re more likely to have reached your limit than if the same shop had rounded up to the nearest penny ( kB charging.)
- They now offer 180 day and 365 day plan options : Alongside Kogan, Lebara now offer bigger bundles and bigger plans to support longer spaces between recharges. As you’ll see on the table above, they have better value plans for people prepared to stump up the money up front for 6 months’ or a years’ worth of plan.
Lebara are ‘fair’
Most people have had bad experiences with telcos. Lebara are fairer than most and you might be surprised at some of the things they offer their customers.
- Recharging leaves you with your full entitlement :
Lebara’s plan expiry is 30 days, as we’ve said. For users who recharge with Lebara mid month (that is, within that 30 day period,) the top up they buy is applied at the end of the 30 day recharge period. (The alternative is that, as many other providers do, the recharge simply starts your 30 day period again. The methodology Lebara use is the fairest way to do it, but it can present problems for people who want to get extra data straight away.
- Lebara don’t charge you $10 extra for more data :
Since everyone upgraded their plans in 2013, we have come to expect that we will be charged an extra $10 per GB for any data we use outside our plan entitlements. (30% of Australians at any one time have been slugged with that fee in the last month.) With Lebara, extra data charged at around $20 per GB but you only pay for what you use. Remember, this is a prepaid plans so you don’t have to pay for extra data if you don’t want to. If you want to avoid being charged simply don’t keep money in extra credit . (Because the service will hard stop at your plan’s entitlement limit if you do.)
- They pass on price cuts to you :
Lebara don’t ‘grandfather’ plans. That means that if you’re on an older price plan and they upgrade it, you will get the benefit. Price cuts or plan changes are passed on immediately to all customers. As data use grows (and the cost of it falls), Lebara keep your needs covered. In our view, everyone in the industry should do this.
What’s not so good about Lebara’s plans ?
- Some questions over historical customer services levels :
We have used the Lebara service ourselves and can tell you that we never had any need to call the call center, However, we acknowledge that’s something many people do need to do in the course of their tenure as a prepaid customer of a phone network. Some reviews of Labara have been critical of their customer service handling. Long waiting times have been a consistent theme. Lebara do not offer a Self Service App in the same way so many phone companies do these days. They do have some automated services including the usual balance checking and recharge facility over SMS. To offer a balanced view, we feel we need to include this as a ‘watch out’ for potential customers. Obliging customers to call for the majority of their enquiries ( because they have no app ) and then offering long wait times is not an ideal customer experience.
- Lebara’s plan range can (in our view) be slightly confusing :
We’ve tried to break down the plans and show the most popular here. Picking a price plan is not an easy business. Unfortunately, to a degree, Lebara are a victim of their own success in some regards. The great thing about Lebara is that they offer cheaper international calls and affordable national unlimited plans. The international aspect is an additional layer of complexity to the pick a price plan bit which was none too easy in the first place.
How do I make sure I never run out of prepaid Lebara credit ?
There are a couple of ways to make this painless. By far the easiest way is to go online and recharge there using a credit card. Lebara, like most prepaid providers has an ‘auto-recharge’ facility which will top you up at the end of your prepaid recharge window.
Lebara customers can also use your credit card by calling 126 123 or by calling customer care 126 122
Finally, customers can buy a physical voucher in store when you’re buying petrol or stamps. You can then use that voucher to recharge Online, IVR, CRM, SMS (by sending pin number to 126 172) and mobile app, if they’d like.
Summary – should you go with Lebara ?
There has rarely been a better time to pick a plan from Lebara. Their late 2017 refresh has added more data and made Lebara an even more competitive proposition. If you live in one of Australia’s major cities, and you either want a plan which has unlimited voice, included international calls or both, we recommend Lebara wholeheartedly. Lebara are an international brand. Around the world, if you added up all of their companies, you’d be talking about something close to the size of Optus. That means they’re reliable ( they’re not going to disappear in the middle of the night with your money ) and it also means they have the heft to be able to negotiate Australia’s best International Direct Dialing rates.
There are some concerns around Lebara’s customer service levels visible online. We’ve never experienced those ourselves. We have mentioned them here because we want to give you a balanced view. However, given the fact that Lebara are an exclusively prepaid provider, we see no risk in taking a plan from them. After all, if it doesn’t work out, you can just leave them.
Additionally, the plan refresh in late 2017 was not perfect from a user perspective. Lebara’s $49.90 plan actually reduced some inclusions. The number of partner countries, included in Lebara’s ‘Unlimited Calls To’ list has dropped from 60 to 50. Many of these changes arise from European roaming regulation updates which has led to hikes for those outside the EU which followed.
What’s of more importance in our recommendation is the move Lebarra made to offering super-fast 4G data services in late 2016. Any plan you buy from Lebara now has 4G data speeds available to it. This is a no lose. If you have an older 3G phone, you can still use it on the Lebara network. If you have a newer 4G phone, you’ll get blindingly fast data speeds. Importantly, Lebara offer a huge amount more by way of data inclusion than their mother network, Vodafone. Remember, if you buy a plan from Lebara, you’ll get access to the full Vodafone network and it’s fastest possible speeds. I have personally seen 100Mbps on a Lebara SIM speed test since they did that update.
The simple truth, (as my lived experience shows ) is that, since independent research showed that Vodafone matched Telstra for 4G coverage in Australia is that buying a plan from Lebara gets you access to the best 4G network in Australia for a fraction of what you’d have to pay Telstra. That was probably news to you. Not many people know it. Which is why, for now, Lebara’s pricing is so great. And why you should buy a plan from them.
CHECK LEBARA’S RANGE
While many people still harbour doubts about Vodafone network, independent research shows they needed be concerned. Roy Morgan research shows Vodafone have more customers in Sydney than either of their main competitors. http://eftm.com.au/2017/02/vodafone-has-more-customers-than-telstra-in-sydney-roy-morgan-research-36784
As the ACMA point out, international call rates in phone plans can be confusing. Our view is that Lebara make it very easy. https://www.acma.gov.au/theACMA/understanding-mobile-charges